The edge is where the action happens. It’s where people, devices and things connect to the digital world. It’s where enterprises interact with their customers; where products are manufactured; where employees interact with their peers and building services; where everyday people shop, explore, receive healthcare, entertain and learn. The Intelligent Edge is where data is processed close to where the data is generated for real-time analysis and action. This model complements the cloud and leverages highly responsive and contextually aware apps at the edge, enabling enterprises to gain real-time insights and take real-time action to improve back office operations and enhance front office experiences to drive improved business outcomes.

The Foundation for Edge Innovation

As today’s enterprises contemplate how to advance their IT infrastructure to support and capitalize on the opportunity at the edge, they need a solid networking foundation. In previous eras such as the cloud and mobility eras, networking was about connecting and protecting. At Aruba, we have been focused on connectivity by unifying wired and wireless to simplify operations. We also focused on delivering a comprehensive security framework to protect our customers’ environments.

But to enable businesses to harness the power of the edge, networks must move beyond connect and protect to be able to analyze and act. Networks must be able to use telemetry data, analyze that data and then execute actions that drive the desired business outcomes.

New Technology Creates Challenges at the Network Edge

In the use case examples cited above, corporate networks play a pivotal role in moving data and connecting people to their apps and services—just as they always have. However, with the Intelligent Edge, network requirements go far beyond standard connectivity and access technologies of the past.

According to IDC, IoT devices are forecast to generate 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data by 2025. In this data-driven era, the increased velocity and volume of data and actions occurring at the edge requires a network and an IT organization that can keep pace. Yet, today’s networks operate at human scale. They are only as agile and secure as the operators that manage them. Network issues can only be addressed when they are found and addressed by humans. And often, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

IT leaders need to carefully assess their infrastructure and operational models to ensure the network, tools and operator experience are poised to support business success in this new era. New models of IT acquisition and consumption are necessary to weather difficult economic conditions and the stress on IT resources both for today’s challenges and as businesses resume their journey to the Intelligent Edge. More specifically, they need to be aware of the following challenges:

  • Siloed management: Independent management of WAN, wired, and wireless networking domains across campus, branch, remote worker and data center locations creates operational complexity and business risk due to: 1) Silos of skills, knowledge and tools for provisioning, monitoring, reporting and troubleshooting, 2) Protracted troubleshooting and remediation, 3) Increased risk of downtime. Over ¾ of organizations use 4 or more tools; with over 25% using more than 11! – and the more tools used, the greater likelihood of service problems or outages.
  • Lack of visibility and insights: In these hyper-distributed edge environments, performance issues can pop up anywhere. Unfortunately, IT’s visibility into existing or potential problems continues to diminish as more infrastructure moves outside of their direct control. What information IT can gather from the network via third-party monitoring and reporting tools often isn’t actionable enough—either because data granularity is poor, or because operators must manually correlate using multiple tools to identify the possible root cause. This is particularly problematic at the edge, where there’s often no on-site IT personnel to troubleshoot issues.
  • Highly manual processes: IT must tackle day-to-day network operations AND attempt to ward off performance issues using personal experience, outdated tools and tedious workflows. As workforces continue to become more distributed, zero touch provisioning is critical to setting up and maintaining remote connectivity. According to Gartner, “more than 65% of network operations activities in enterprises are manual.³” and that “automation reduces manual errors by more than 75% while increasing operational efficiencies.⁴” When it comes to Wi-Fi issues, ZK Research finds that 60% of respondents spent 10 hrs / week dedicated to finding and fixing problems, and of those, 60% still use packet capture as their primary troubleshooting tool. Zeus Karravala says, “Packet capture is akin to a data dump, and then someone needs to sift through and analyze the data, which explains why the troubleshooting time is so lengthy.”
  • Security threats are everywhere: New, advanced security threats are emerging every day. In 2019, security breaches increased over 11% from 2018 resulting in 33B records being stolen and is expected to cost businesses $6T⁵ annually by 2021. On average, it takes just 5 minutes for an IoT device to be attacked once it’s connected to the internet. IoT devices aren’t equipped with stringent security measures and are easy for hackers to exploit. Meanwhile, workforce mobility continues to expand the IT perimeter, as employees often access corporate resources on personal devices and public Wi-Fi networks that aren’t inherently secure. Lastly, cloud-destined traffic that goes directly over the Internet is more vulnerable as well—particularly those from shadow IT apps. In the face of these trends, it is clearly becoming untenable for IT to secure environments with traditional methods and tools and existing human resources.
  • Economic and resource headwinds: Adapting to new business and technology requirements is always a challenge for any size organization. Oftentimes, there’s a need for both new equipment purchases and new processes. These challenges are even greater in uncertain economic times where investment capital is scarce and IT resources are stretched.